Jolly Esmeralda, No. 4

The fourth year in a row to ride this loop, but it’s different every time. First year, I rode it alone and the downhill trails from Jolly Mountain and Esmeralda Peaks were mere goat paths. Second year, rode it with a guy from Seattle who knew all about rocks – and found a most impressive rock with a fossil imprint at the top(!) of Jolly Mountain. Back then, the trail was full with downed trees coming up the Middle Fork. Then, third year, I rode with a guy from Bellingham who knew a lot about remodeling houses. And now, this fourth time, I rode with 3 people from Seattle and the Tri-Cities, and the trails were in better shape for some parts (like the downhill sections from Jolly and Esmeralda), but a lot more downed trees and rocks were in other parts. The views were fantastic this time, though it almost seemed like it might stay cloudy early on when I didn’t see Mt. Rainier peak out above the clouds on the way up. But, then there it was!

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My riding companion for the climb was in seemingly the same condition as I. As I hadn’t been mountain biking much this year at all – I was close to surprised by the speed with which we rode while chatting. It turns out that we both ride about 40 miles on the Burke-Gilman each day – but in opposite directions.

The picture above shows Mt. Rainier just a bit to the left of center. Certainly pretty up here. And here is the area where we would be heading to in a while:

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The bikes were sunning themselves:

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No ride is complete without hike-a-bike, and there are a few steep sections on the trail that helped warm up my cold feet. It was only around 60 F, which was perfect for riding.

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We put first tracks on the last bit to the top (as evidenced by a short section of virgin snow) before enjoying the views and snacks. The utter lack of biting flies was greatly appreciated, which I had come to expect from my prior visits to the top.

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is stretching out before us to the west, while the Stuart Range expands to the North:

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Right behind me is the valley that we’ll go down into. Big views for forested Washington:

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A couple motos came up as we were getting ready to leave – but they didn’t make it to the top for some reason. They had just come up from Salmon La Sac. A little further down, we ran into Grant, one of our group of four, and he looked to be in good spirits despite the schlepping of bikes.

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And just a bit behind him was Mike, who looked to be fresh as a daisy. Rode up strong right past us.

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Meanwhile, Kate and I were about to get down to business: the Jolly Creek trail descent. After warning her by saying ‘I’ll was this section’, Kate rolled on and rode the whole bit. Apparently, it’s all rideable. Who knew! This isn’t a picture of the super steep stuff, but you get the idea:

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It’s always impressive to see the grandeur from below.

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After making it through all the tough sections, Kate had a little spill and landed in a bush of blueberries. Blueberries? Hmm, let’s savor the moment 🙂

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Each bush of berries tasted slightly different. Some where a bit tart, others sweet, seedy, but all went down easily. After riding a bit more, the trail was very overgrown – with … wait for it: more blueberries. This time, we stuffed ourselves until I had actually had enough.

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Just then, Grant caught up with us, and we rode together up the Middle Fork Teanaway. Water crossings come every half-hour or so past this point, so it was easy to refresh or fill up with H20.

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One of my favorite parts is the climb through the meadow up to Koppen Mnt. trail intersection on the Deroux Spur trail. The surface is much more stable than it looks and the flowers on the meadow are almost breathtaking.

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The descent on the backside was fast and fun as always. The North Fork Teanaway Rd. has a few wash-outs and cars now need to park before the Iron Peak trail. How fun it is to ride without cars dusting me. The good life.

On the other hand, the Esmeralda Basin trail also looked a bit more eroded than usual and had us pushing early on.

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However, higher up the techy parts were rideable – great fun. And even better was to _not_ implode for the first time at this point of the ride.

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The weather was just perfect, and we took a good break at the pass with wind blowing strong and cold. Brrr. Time to get going!

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As per usual, my compadres were down and gone before too long, and left me to enjoy the rocky, steep downhill all alone. I walked more than the year before, probably not doing much mountain biking has left me feeling a bit sheepish. Afterwards, the Fortune Creek Rd. was waiting hot and steep as always.A 4×4 pickup loaded with people came bouncing down. Oooh, what a push back up to Gallagher Head lake!

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The last bit of singletrack is the Boulder de Roux trail, which apparently means reddish-brown boulder trail. Hmm, there is a mountain with that color at the top of the trail – so maybe that’s where it got it’s name from.

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The Boulder de Roux trail took me quite a while on this 1/4 mile obnoxiously steep section strewn full with boulder and roots. Time to walk-back-down. The last bit through the scree-slope was much less exciting than in prior years, when it was merely a goat path on a slippery slope. This time, we found a wide bench-cut through the slope.

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Nice, nice ride. After a bit chilling at the parking lot, Mike rolled in and we chatted until dusk.

 

 

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